Daniel (mameluke) wrote in linguaphiles,

Hi everyone! This my first post on this excellent community...

I've been reading through Catalan: A Comprehensive Grammar by Max Wheeler et. al., and I've come across something I find truly bizarre to my English- and Spanish-oriented mind:

Agreement of the participle with haver Past participles forming compound tenses with the auxiliary haver may agree in gender and number with any of the pronouns el, la, els, les, en, in any of their contextual forms. That is, agreement occurs when one of these third-person pronouns precedes the participle:

He portat el diari --> L'he portat.
(I have brought the newspaper, I have brought it.)

He portat la revista --> L'he portada.
(I have brought the magazine, I have brought it.)

He portat els diaris --> Els he portats.
(I have brought the newspapers, I have brought them.)

He portat les revistes --> Les he portades.
(I have brought the newspapers, I have brought them.)

Les peres eren podrides i les he hagudes de llençar.
(The pears were rotten and we had to throw them out.)

The text gives more example sentences and is very clear that in modern usage this is more or less a matter of perscription, and that there is a strong tendency for the participle to remain invariable (i.e. he portat for the first four examples), as in Spanish. However, agreement is retained "more frequently with la than with the other third-personal pronouns or en."

I find this very strange--why on earth should a participle that is theoretically part of a verb inflect only when a direct object pronoun is present?  Shouldn't verbs agree only with the subject? I've learned not to theoretically question language (Ergative-Absolutive case still boggles the mind), but I'm curious on this one--are there any other Romance languages (Occitan, French, Aranese, any of the close stuff? or Latin, even) that also do this? Also, for the Catalan speakers (please say which dialect, or a foreigner) out there, do you find these forms normal in your own speech? Writing? Or are they only part of "Old Catalan" (the text is vague on whether or not it used to be normal or it was always marked as prestigious by perscriptivists--see singular "they" for an English example)? I asked my own Catalan roommate, and he said that he mostly has his participles agree, but sometimes he doesn't. Thanks!

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